Reducing the overwhelm for children with ASD – School-based strategies

Reducing the overwhelm for children with ASD – School-based strategies

Most children get irritable in the afternoon and less able to learn. For a child with Autism, the effects can happen earlier and with a lot greater intensity. Whilst the culmination of sensory and cognitive overload can’t always be avoided, there are some things which help a child manage the overwhelm.

  • At school, see if the teacher can establish a “quiet zone” or “chill out space” in the class room.

This area should ideally be away from noises and bright lights. In this area I recommend putting some cushions and perhaps a tent or canopy, and quiet activities which are not overly stimulating or challenging e.g. colouring, reading, listening to music, threading beads. This space can be used as a “sensory break” area or a retreat when upset. This space can be for everyone to use.

  • Provide frequent breaks

Whilst most children have breaks from learning during the standard 1st and 2nd breaks, children with Autism often need more breaks than is normally required.

  • Make a calming sensory box

Whilst it could seem counter-intuitive for an overstimulated child – a sensory box can offer sensations which have a calming affect e.g. soft/textured fabric, kinetic sand, squishies (the latest craze!). If a child is frequently on the go, seeking sensory input, then a sensory box may help to ground the child as they get their sensory needs met.

  • Provide alternative play options

playing aloneWhilst running in the yard may help many children to unwind, for some children with ASD the playground is challenging and a continuation of stimulation. These children may “unwind” better by going to library or playing in a quiet corner of the playground. This doesn’t have to be everyday or for every child with ASD (some definitely benefit from running off their energy!).

A side note about socialising

Many children with ASD will shy away from social interaction at lunch time. This is a way for them to have a sensory/mental rest. But there is benefit to the occasional pairing with a caring and socially intuitive peer to provide opportunities to develop social skills whilst also not adding to the overwhelm. But this will be a topic of another post… 🙂

Your Psych Centre can offer tailored recommendations for your child’s needs or liaise with their school to guide the implementations. Contact us for an appointment.

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Stacey Hansen
stacey@yourpsychcentre.com.au

Stacey Hansen is the Owner/Principal Psychologist of Your Psych Centre. She has a Bachelor of Psychology (1st Class Honours) and is currently studying a Master of Clinical Psychology. She has special interest in the area of Child and Adolescent psychology with experience in both Psychological Assessment and Intervention. She is also a mother to three children and understands the joy and challenges that parenting entails.